Living with anxiety
Michaela tells SpunOut what life is like for a person with anxiety
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"I was constantly accused of “attention seeking” with my panic attacks "
I’ve suffered from anxiety for my whole life now. It can be tough and it’s a complete inconvenience at times, but it’s something that I’ve had to learn to accept and deal with. But one thing that really bugs me is people that don’t think anxiety is a real illness. People who tell me to “just stop worrying”, to “calm down” and worst of all, to “just get over it”. Obviously, if I could do that then I wouldn’t be in this position. These are possibly the worst things you can say to a person with anxiety or a person who’s in distress during a panic attack, it just makes them feel ten times worse about their lack of control about the situation.
Anxiety isn’t something that I can just get rid of, and although I have my good days and bad days, I’ve accepted that it’s probably going to be a part of my life forever. From the age of seven I remember fretting constantly over little things, obsessing over what could go wrong, making myself sick with worry. These feelings were so normal to me that I didn’t even realise that I had a problem. I thought everyone was like this, that everyone spent all their time and energy stressing about the outcome of everything they said or did. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”? It was only when I turned 16 that I realised anxiety was an actual illness. It was when I started going out for the night with my friends, and almost every night I’d end up getting myself up in a heap and having a panic attack. The fact that this happened regularly made me even more anxious about going out, I was so afraid of people looking at me and seeing me freak out.
Before I’d leave the house I’d go through every single bad thing that could happen to me if I went out, and I was on the verge of a panic attack before I’d stepped foot outside the front door. I wanted more than anything to be able to enjoy my night anxiety-free, and have fun like everybody else. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”? The same thing happened in school. I’ve always missed a lot of school because of medical issues, and this would leave me in constant fear of falling behind, of missing something important, of failing.
So much to the point that I was scared to go back to school after taking a few days off, I was petrified that I wouldn’t understand what was going on, and would start having a panic attack in the classroom. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”? This fear was made even worse around the time of my Irish and French oral exams. I started having a panic attack during an assembly in the hall, and had to leave the room before it got worse. I didn’t want anyone to see, because I knew they wouldn’t understand what was going on. But of course they did see, and what followed was a group of lads taking the piss out of me and mimicking me having a panic attack. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so degraded or mortified in my life.
Being accused of being an attention seeker
I was constantly accused of “attention seeking” with my panic attacks and to anyone who suspects that I say, a big fuck you. I go out of my way to go somewhere private and calm myself down when I’m having a panic attack, away from everyone except maybe a close friend who understands and can help. Sorry if my panic attacks offend you or take your mind off your own life for a couple of seconds, but I can guarantee you that the last thing I want is for you to notice me.
Does it sound like I could “just get over it”? Exams were hell for me, not just because of my anxiety, but also because of people’s petty comments. I got to go first in my oral exams, skipping maybe a handful of people and majority of them didn’t mind at all. But there’s always a few that bang on about “special treatment” and how I was “overreacting”. Well sorry if it seems that way, but guess how many panic attacks I had in two oral exams? Five. Obviously, I wouldn’t just sabotage my exams that I worked so hard for like that for the craic and to get some attention off people who don’t even care about me. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”?
Me being me, I didn’t want to cause any more disruption. I didn’t want people gossiping about me and my drama skills, you know, because I was overreacting about the whole anxiety thing. So I asked for a separate room to do my written exams in for my Leaving Cert. I did it so that if I had a panic attack during an exam, I wouldn’t be interrupting other people in the room, and be accused of jeopardising their exams. But still, people talked about it and I was accused of having special treatment all over again. I don’t know how having a room by myself was going to be of any extra benefit to my exams, but you’d swear it was. Well I worked my ass off studying for the whole year, and didn’t end up getting my first preference at the end of the day because of my anxiety.
Does it sound like I could “just get over it”? I’m not writing this blog post out of anger for what has happened in the past. I’m writing it because I want people to be aware of what a person with anxiety goes through, before they decide to judge them. Before they decide to talk shit about them, make presumptions, and possibly make the said person’s anxiety even worse. My anxiety is a lot better since I got to college, and it’s made my life a lot easier. I’m happier and it shows in day to day things, I can now go to lectures without feeling like I’m falling behind and failing, and I have a lot more fun when I go out.
I’m so open about my anxiety because I want people to understand how hard it can be, or at least to try. Being a little more accepting to somebody with anxiety could just make it a little easier for them to deal with it themselves. I want everyone who reads this blog post to take one thing from it; a person who suffers from anxiety can’t just get over it.